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Antique Maps and Prints Can be Fascinating!

Rare antique prints,antique map print gallery,antique prints engravings

People collect old coins, stamps, silver, furniture, and so on. Rarely will you find someone who comes forward to claim a passion for antique maps and prints! But if you have even the slightest interest in the places and events of long ago, you could be heading towards the development of a fascinating hobby.

Now, what exactly is an “antique map”? Considering that it is antique, it is obviously related to something that is more than 100 years old. Just imagine looking at a picture of what your town looked like that long ago, or a country you emigrated from—what existed then, and what has changed now! It is like a journey into the times of your ancestors without the aid of a time machine!

Now, how were these maps prepared then? Well, there were three methods used—

(1) A wooden block would be cut in such a way that the area to be printed would stand out against a plain background. Then, this projecting part would be inked. The ink was plain, no specific colors were used. One such map can be seen in the work of Munster (c1550).

(2) Later on, entered copper and steel engravings. These metal plates had the image or map cut into them in reverse. Ink would be poured into the grooves. Finally, these plates and sheets of paper would be placed in a press. Clear pictures would now show up on the plates. Most of the antique maps discovered in modern times are made from copper and steel.

Copper was popular from the early 1500s to around 1820. But because it was a soft metal, the plates needed a repeat beating and repeat engraving. People therefore welcomed the advent of steel in the early 1800s. The metal was harder than copper, resulting in finer engravings and longer-lasting maps. Steel totally replaced copper after 1830.

(3) A third method involved engraving on specially prepared stones. Known as Lithography or surface printing, many gravitated towards it since the work could be accomplished much faster. Also, costs came down. The artists or map makers of the 1800s could directly draw the maps on these stones. Maps of varied hues could be produced, but each color had to be set on a different stone. The snag was that if the artists were not careful, colors could overlap resulting in a fuzzy effect. Naturally, Lithography could not overtake Steel engraving in popularity.

With the advent of industrialization after the 1880s, modern machines took over Lithography and printing. Map-making became a mechanical practice.

The sizes of these maps were different—some large, some small. For our understanding, we shall split them into three groups, based on how a single sheet of paper can be folded.

If the map is printed on just one-eighth of a sheet, then it was an Octavo (7? X 3?). Maps covering one quarter of a sheet were referred to as Quarto (13? X 10?). The Folio dealt with a map printed on a complete sheet; the measurements would be around 25? X 20?. Really wondrous are the miniature maps that were brought out in the late 1500s and early 1600s. These had measurements like 2.5? x 4.5?, referred to as sized 12mo or 16mo.

So, if you should manage to get an antique map at an affordable price, ensure that it is matted and framed (easy to get it done) and offer it a pride of place on your living room wall or somewhere in your workplace!


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